Survey reveals EMT concern over CBRNE incidents

Responders highlight cases of lack of training, protective equipment and medicine


By EMS1 Staff

BRISTOL, Tenn. — More than a quarter of EMTs say they do not have the proper equipment needed to respond to an MCI involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive devices, according to a new survey.

Twenty-six percent of respondents said their emergency vehicles are not equipped with the PPE and/or medications and antidotes needed to adequately deal with CBRNE incidents.

Of those with rigs equipped with medications and antidotes, 86 percent say there is only enough medication and antidote to treat first responders, leaving the public underserved.

In addition, only 42 percent of the respondents reported that their department receives recurrent training in responding CBRNE and/or terrorism.

The survey also found 72 percent of EMT respondents are somewhat to very concerned that a terrorist attack with widespread impact will happen in the next three years, while less than half (42 percent) reported that their department offers continual training in responding to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive devices (CBRNE) and/or terrorism attacks.

"The survey results demonstrate a possible lack of preparedness among our nation's first responders in their ability to respond to chemical, biological or radiological disasters,” said Dr. Joe Nelson, state EMS medical director for Florida.

"Despite concerns about the potential for a CBRNE accident or terrorist attack, many EMTs don't seem to be getting the training, equipment, medications and antidotes they need to protect themselves and treat victims.”

Despite the high levels of concern from the 250 survey respondents, only 37 percent report that the amount of time spent on training and exercising for CBRNE has increased in the past five years, and for 25 percent of respondents the amount of time spent on training and exercising for CBRNE has even decreased or is not offered.

However, 64 percent of the EMTs who took the online survey by Meridian Medical Technologies reported they felt somewhat confident to very confident in their department’s ability to respond to an MCI that involves CBRNE.

"EMTs, in conjunction with local fire and police personnel, are the front line response in the event of a chemical disaster," said Tom Handel, senior vice president of Commercial Pharmaceuticals for Meridian Medical Technologies, Inc.

"Every minute counts, so it is imperative they are trained and equipped with protective gear and medications to protect themselves and treat others quickly and efficiently."

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